By David Monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
August 21, 2015
BEIJING — When Jenny Simpson won the world 1500m title in Daegu in 2011, it shocked the athletics world. With a mighty kick down the homestretch, she became the first USA gold medalist in that discipline in 28 years.
“I didn’t worry about time, I didn’t worry about anyone around me,” an elated Simpson told reporters at the time. “I worried about me, and I was first to the finish line tonight.”
Four years later here in Beijing, Simpson –who won the silver medal at these championships in Moscow in 2013– said the key to her success remains keeping her focus on her own training and not worrying about others. She’s fourth on the world list this year (3:57.30), a full seven seconds behind world record holder Genzebe Dibaba. But, she reminded reporters at a press conference here today, the 1500m has three rounds, and endurance and racing tactics play just a big a role as raw speed.
“The 1500 is really hot right now,” Simpson marveled. She added: “At the World Championships, the real equalizer is the starting line of round one. If history repeats itself, the rounds will play to my favor.”
Simpson, who turns 29 on Sunday, has been running rounds since she was a star steeplechaser at the University of Colorado when she competed in the NCAA ranks. She remains an endurance-oriented miler, boasting personal bests of 8:29.58 for 3000m and 14:56.26 for 5000m. Indeed, she won the USA 5000m title in 2013, and her primary training partner, Emma Coburn, is a steeplechaser. She is still coached by her Colorado coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs.
“I think that I train to be good every time I get to the track,” Simpson continued. “I don’t specifically train to race back to back days, but when that challenge is there I hope to rise to that occasion.”
Simpson has been both fast and consistent this year. In her one indoor race, she broke the American record for two miles, clocking a world-leading 9:18.35. In her outdoor campaign, she hasn’t finished lower than fourth in any race, has broken 4:01 three times, and won the USA 1500m title.
Still, she was stung at the 1500m at the Herculis meeting in Monaco last month where her world championships teammate Shannon Rowbury not only beat her, but broke the Mary Slaney’s American record, a mark Simpson had targeted for years. Rowbury clocked a 3:56.29 to Simpson’s 3:57.30.
“Monaco was a great run for me, but also really frustrating,” Simpson admitted, pointing out that her training program was designed to allow her to peak here and not before. “But as a result I think I come here fitter than I was for Monaco.”
To earn a medal here, Simpson will not only have to compete with Dibaba, but also Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman, Sifan Hassan, last year’s European champion who has clocked 3:56.05 this season. Like Simpson, Hassan is also an endurance-oriented miler (they have similar 3000m and 5000m bests). Rowbury, who won the bronze medal at the 2009 edition of these championships, is also a medal threat this year, as is Britain’s Laura Muir, who has twice broken 4:01 this season.
Commenting on the recent releases of data indicating an ongoing doping problem in athletics, Simpson said she felt that her victory in Daegu was made possible by the increases in testing, saying “that is part of why I was successful there.” However, she said that she had to keep her focus on herself, and face the competition she has on the field of play.
“My job is to train and to compete at to the best of my ability,” she intoned. “I’m here to race, I’m here to do the best I can and beat everyone on the track.”